Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Violence in premarital relationships is a national problem that has only recently become a topic of interest to researchers. Previous research has shown that about 1/2 of the violent dating relationships continue after violence has occurred. Reasons for the continuation of marriages after violence has occurred have been a topic of much concern in the research of late, but reasons for the continuation of violent dating relationships have been overlooked. Learned helplessness is one reason put forth for husbands and wives continuing their relationship after violence. It has been hypothesized that women in violent relationships become helpless because they face situations within the relationship where their responses and the subsequent outcomes are not related. This present research was designed to test the theory of learned helplessness within the dating relationship and to study the relationship between courtship violence and other variables including experience with violence in the family of orientation, attitudes towards violence, and perceived alternatives to the violent situation. Of the sample, 71% (n=134) had been involved in a physically and/or emotionally violent relationship. Almost all of these subjects (97%, n=130) did not leave the relationship immediately after the violence began. No significant relationships were found between direct childhood experiences with violence and courtship violence. The more tolerant an individual's attitudes were towards violence, the more likely he or she was to inflict physical violence, experience physical violence, be involved in physical violence in a relationship , and inflict a greater amount of emotional abuse. Also, the lower an individual perceived his or her alternatives to be to the violent relationship, the longer the relationship continued, the more physical abuse experienced and the more emotional abuse inflicted. Learned helplessness was measured with the Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASO). The higher an individual's global negative score, internal positive score, and stable positive score, the longer the violent courtship relationship continued. Males who scored below the mean on the three ASQ scales (external, specific, and unstable attributions) and females who scored above the mean (internal, global, and stable attributions) tended to be involved in the highest levels of relationship violence. The implications of the results are discussed.
Copyright 1989 Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck
Zimmer-Gembeck, Melanie, "Courtship Violence and the Decision to Leave The Relationship: Testing the Theory of Learned Helplessness" (1989). Master's Theses. 2136.